The hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis D (or delta) virus (HDV), respectively, are to blame for hepatitis B and D infections. These viruses are usually transmitted through contact with infected blood.
Hepatitis B and D Infection Information
These viruses are infectious through contact with blood or certain body fluids, but not through saliva, sweat, tears, or feces. HBV can infect you by itself, but HDV can only infect people who acquire it at the same time as HBV or people who are chronically infected with HBV. Dual infections with HBV and HDV are generally worse than infections with HBV alone.
Many people, especially children, who have acute (short-term) hepatitis B will never show any symptoms. Those who do might experience jaundice, fatigue, headache, fever, appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain (especially on the right side), and dark urine. Most cases of acute hepatitis B go away without specific treatment in a few weeks and don't cause complications.
Some people (about 10 percent of recognized acute cases) go on to have chronic (long-term) hepatitis, which puts them at greater risk for liver damage and diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Contraction of HDV magnifies hepatitis B symptoms and increases the likelihood of liver damage. Medications to treat chronic hepatitis B can be used in some cases.
Who's at Risk for Hepatitis B and D?
Those at risk include anyone in the health-care, public-safety, or other fields where there may be contact with infected blood; those who have unprotected sexual contact with an HBV-infected person or multiple partners; intravenous drug users; those who might encounter unsanitized needles through body piercing or tattooing; people who are on hemodialysis; and babies born to infected mothers. Those living with an HBV-infected person and travelers to areas where HBV is common (check the CDC's Travelers' Health Web site for information) also have a higher risk of infection.
Defensive Measures Against Hepatitis B and D
Avoiding HBV will keep HDV away, so kill two birds with one stone by:
- Getting vaccinated. The hepatitis B vaccine is more than 95 percent effective and lasts at least 15 years (and perhaps for a lifetime). It is recommended for all newborns and for children younger than 18 years old. Anyone who is at high risk should also get the vaccine. If you're exposed to HBV before you finish the three-shot round of vaccinations, contact your physician; you may be given a dose of hepatitis B immune globulin.
- Practicing safe sex. Don't have sex with someone who has HBV, and if you are not in a mutually monogamous sexual relationship, use a condom every time you have sex.
- Avoiding others' blood. Don't share needles, whether for IV drug use, a tattoo, or a piercing. You also shouldn't share razors or toothbrushes. Health-care workers need to be very cautious when handling needles or other sharp instruments.
People with a hepatitis C infection have a very high likelihood of developing chronic, or long-term, hepatitis, which can cause serious liver damage. Go to the next page to learn about avoiding and treating hepatitis C.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.